Link to city’s evolution snapped

Golconda fort - fast disappearing heritage

Hyderabad’s heritage sites are a fast disappearing legacy if current trends are anything to go by. Nine out of 10 pre-historic archaeological sites in Hyderabad and its surrounding areas listed in the new Heritage Act of Telangana, 2017, are no longer traceable, writes Sirish Nanisetty writing in the Hindu quoting archaeologists and officials of Department of Heritage, Telangana.

With the disappearance of these 3,000-2,500-year-old sites, Hyderabad has lost a part of its heritage that traced the city’s evolution to the late Stone Age period.

Apart from the unbridled building activity in the city, government legislation too is partly to be blamed for this.

“Ten years ago, when I visited the Hashmatpet Site, it was on the verge of being occupied as builders had dumped huge rocks to destroy evidence. It was a 30-acre site where the excavations during the British rule (1862) and the Nizam reign (1935) revealed a near-intact megalithic site. The Moula Ali site was disturbed much earlier. When I was studying in 1981, the location itself was a surmise,” says archaeologist K. P. Rao of University of Hyderabad who has published a number of papers on the subject.

Fascinating discoveries

“The Hashmatpet site had 20 stone circles on a well-preserved ground. It had cists (small stone-built coffin) burial, funerary assemblages and stone slab enclosures. More significantly, buffalo metallic figurines were discovered showing a level of civilisation among the people,” says Mr. Rao.

Hashmatpet was one of the sites in the region where iron stirrup was unearthed along with sickles, ploughing implement, globular vases, ring stands and small globular vessels showing the level of culture in the area. At the Moula Ali site, which was also spread across 30 acres, axes and cups were discovered by archaeologists.

According to Mr. Rao, the Eastern Telangana region bucked the Bronze Age period. “All the evidence we have shows that the region missed the Chalcolithic age. We jumped right from Neolithic Age to Iron Age,” says the archaeologist, who has discovered a new 2.5-acre site in the Southern Campus of the UoH with relics dated to the Megalithic era. The dating of the sites was done with Optical Simulated Luminescence.

Not surprisingly, the Neolithic and Megalithic sites were at the same locations which are now most densely populated areas of Hyderabad.

“The undulating plains, the rocky knolls and the ever-flowing Musi and its tributaries made it congenial for human habitation for thousands of years. Several Neolithic implements, generally dated from 2nd millennium B.C. to 1st millennium B.C. were noticed near Tolukatta but no regular excavation was conducted here,” says a document published by the Department of Archaeology in 1983.

Now, officials of the department say they are not aware of the exact location which is close to Charminar. “A few months ago when we visited Singapur Megalithic burial site in Huzurabad, we discovered the local people had disturbed the stone formations and had turned the location for Bathukamma celebration,” shares an official of the Department of Heritage, Telangana.

“Due to urbanisation many of the sites in the city have disappeared. We don’t even know the exact locations,” says the official seeking anonymity.

Legislation loophole

Anuradha Reddy, convenor of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach)-Hyderabad, says one of the biggest flaws of the 2017 legislation is that it doesn’t demarcate areas for protection or how the sites will be protected. “Because Delhi is an urban area, they have reduced the restricted area around a protected site to 50 metres. The Telangana government has not specified any such measures. The result is the attack on most of the heritage sites in the State,” she points out.

Showing the artefacts and Stone Age objects recovered from various sites in Hyderabad and Telangana, K.P. Rao holds up a flat bowl coloured red on the inside and black on the outside called black and red ware (BRW) by archaeologists. “This was recovered from the Lingampalli site,” says Mr. Rao inside his small museum-cum-laboratory at UoH.

The 2001 excavation at Lingampalli had led to the discovery of a 16-foot high menhir made in white granite and surrounded by pit burial and iron implements including a trident, a sword and two barbed arrowheads.

“When we lose these sites and the opportunity to excavate and study them, we lose information about our ancestors. They lived in the region and they are our links to the past. When we lose information about them we lose a part of our identity. It is a long period cultural identity we are losing,” says Mr. Rao.

The full report can be found here